News / Middle East

    US, Russia Pledge to Unblock Syria Talks

    U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrive for a trilateral meeting with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov during the second round of negotiations between the Syrian g
    U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrive for a trilateral meeting with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov during the second round of negotiations between the Syrian g
    Lisa Schlein
    The United States and Russia have pledged to help unblock stalled negotiations between Syria's two warring sides, International Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Thursday.

    The U.N. mediator met for two hours Thursday with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov. 

    Brahimi said he briefed the two officials in great detail about the status of the talks, which remain deadlocked after three weeks of negotiations.
     
    "They have kindly reaffirmed their support for what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us because until now we are not making much progress in this process," he said.
     
    While describing the meeting as useful, Brahimi acknowledged he does not expect any "miracles."   He said the two parties are not budging from the positions they have staked out since the start of the talks.

    Government stays firm
     
    Brahimi added that  the Syrian government delegation remains firm in it determination to deal with the problems of violence and terrorism. 

    This runs counter to the opposition's insistence on discussing moves toward creating a transitional government in Syria.  The government dismisses this out of hand, as it broaches the idea of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power.
     
    Brahimi said the negotiations are difficult and will not be resolved any time soon.  He said the objective of the talks is to put these extremely complex issues on the table as soon as possible and work toward ways of addressing them in the future.
     
    Still, he said it is critical the talks move ahead speedily as the people of Syria continue to be caught in a dark tunnel with no light at the end visible.  He said the one positive development during the three weeks of negotiations has been the delivery of aid to thousands of people in Homs and the evacuation of hundreds of civilians trapped in the city.

    Brahimi said he hopes the Syrian talks helped move this process along.  But, he added all credit for aid going into Homs belongs to U.N. colleagues on the ground, who negotiated the truce with government and opposition forces.
     
    As for the stalled peace negotiations here in Geneva, Brahimi said he hopes for the best, but is prepared for the worst.
     
    "Failure is always staring at us in the face," he said.  "As far as the United Nations is concerned, we will certainly not leave one stone unturned if there is a possibility to move forward.  If there is not, we will say so."

    UN pleas on aid

    Meanwhile U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos says getting aid to desperate civilians in Syria should not be matter of controversy or politics.

    Amos briefed the Security Council Thursday on what she says is modest progress in getting help to civilians This includes evacuating more than 1,400 people from the city of Homs.

    A brief "humanitarian pause" last week gave women, children, and old men a chance to get out.

    Amos said the Homs agreement shows what can be done. But she said it cannot be a model because aid workers came under fire.

    She said both sides in Syria's civil war are breaking international law by failing to protect civilians. Amos said three-million Syrians are stuck in hard to reach places and that their lives are hanging in the balance.
     
    Aleppo violence

    Thursday's discussions come amid reports of violence in Aleppo and along the Syrian-Lebanon border. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that government airstrikes killed at least 51 people Wednesday in Aleppo, and that more than 230 people have been killed daily since a barrel-bomb campaign began around January 22.

    Lebanon's Future TV is also reporting that 300 Syrian refugees have fled the region around Yabroud, a town along the Lebanese border, for the mostly Sunni town of Arsal inside Lebanon.
     
    According to BBC and Reuters, Syrian government forces backed by Lebanese Hezbollah allies are battling rebel fighters in the mountainous border region in what is being dubbed the "Battle for Qalamoun." Syrian planes have been supporting the operation, which has pushed more refugees over the border into neighboring Lebanon.
     
    Locals complain that even the road out of Yabroud is now being bombed in what Riad Kahwaji of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis calls a very strategic batlle for both Damascus and Hezbollah.
     
    Draft resolutions
     
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is presenting two draft U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria.
     
    The first is Russia's version of a resolution to bring greater humanitarian aid. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow Thursday the second addresses fighting terrorism, which the Syrian government has stressed in the peace talks so far.
     
    "Facts confirming an increasing number of threats from an increasing number of terrorist groups are well-known," Lavrov said. "We are very concerned by them. That's why we presented to the Security Council — or in this particular case we've just started consultations — one more draft resolution on fighting terrorism in Syria."
     
    Russia objected to a Western-Arab draft resolution on humanitarian aid as one-sided against President Bashar al-Assad's government, and said it would use its veto power to block the measure.
     
    A humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was extended on Thursday for three more days, the city's governor told Reuters.
     
    "The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians," Talal al-Barazi, the governor, said by telephone.
     
    Mortar and rocket fire and sniping have repeatedly forced suspension of the operation, and al-Barazi added that a total of 1,400 people had been evacuated from the besieged Old City since last Friday, when the U.N.-brokered ceasefire began.

    Images from Syria

    • Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai (left), who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education, talks to Syrian refugee Mazoon Rakan, 16, about Mazoon's experience in the camp during her visit to the Zaatri refugee camp, in Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • A Kurdish fighter from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) carries his son as he walks along a street, Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • A man walks near a crater as smoke rises from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • Civil defense members and civilians extinguish the fire from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014.
    • A civil defense worker puts out a fire after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria Feb. 16, 2014.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter rests with his weapon in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
    • A boy holds his baby sister, who survived what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.
    • Rescuers walk on the rubble of collapsed buildings after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.

    Edward Yeranian, Reuters contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: DavidArizona85 from: Phoenix AZ
    February 13, 2014 2:29 PM
    There is nothing to talk about. Assad and his allies have won. He will remain the dictator and slowly crush the secular opposition. There will remain an Al Qaeda presence in the Eastern part of the country which will continue to bedevil Syria and Iraq. Thank goodness we are not in there with our young soldiers being blown to bits

    by: Daniel from: Indian Ocean
    February 13, 2014 8:45 AM
    All of L. Brahimi's 'work' is useless. I wonder how much he's getting paid by the UN...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora